Istanbul On a Rainy Day: 13 Things To Do
Istanbul, the city that lies on two continents, has great weather year-round. Though the best months to visit are from mid-April to June and September to October, it doesn't mean you will get sunshine the entire time of your stay. But if you want to skip the rain, it's best to visit in July and August when the average temperature is 73 F. The wet season starts in October and ends in May, with a 19% chance of a given day being a wet day. December is the wettest month, with an average of 9.5 days.
Whether you have a 3 day itinerary in Istanbul or hope to stay much longer, you may see gloomy skies. But if it rains during your stay in Istanbul, don't despair. Though you can still walk around and explore the city in a raincoat, rubber boots and umbrella, there are so many attractions to visit and fun touristy things to do that will keep you dry.
Drop off your bags with Bounce luggage storage in Istanbul and explore the city on a rainy day with nothing but an umbrella in your hands.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a great place to take shelter on a rainy day. Not only is this bazaar the largest covered market in the world, but it is also the oldest. Built in 1455, the Grand Bazaar has over 60 covered streets and 4,000 shops spread over 330, 000 square feet.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the Bazaar every day. This means it gets crowded, especially on a rainy day, but nothing a tourist like you can't handle. From spices, souvenirs, bags, and accessories to leather goods, carpets, textiles, jewelry and antiques, the pushy vendors will have you spend a lot more than planned but the experience will be well worth it. The Bazaar is open every day from 10 am till 6 pm except on Sundays.
If you are looking to buy unique souvenirs, sweets and spices to take home, this is the right place. Built in 1664, in the same style as the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar or the Egyptian Bazaar has over 80 shops and is generally less frantic and easier to haggle. Here you will find anything from spices like nougat and saffron, foods like Turkish delight, caviar, nuts, souvenirs, soaps, oils, aromatherapy items, and other gifts and handcrafted items.
Located in the Eminonu quarter of the Fatih district, next to the Galata Bridge and the New Mosque (Yeni Cami), it makes for an easy refuge from the heavy rainfall if you are in the area. Opening times are every day from 8 am - 7 pm. Unlike the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar is open on Sundays too.
The Blue Mosque, also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of Istanbul's most visited attractions. Built in the 17th century, this beautiful mosque sees about 5 million visitors every year. Because it is still an active mosque, it is closed for non-worshipers during prayer, which is 5 times a day.
The Blue Mosque was named for its blue tiles surrounding the interior wall and it is located just a 2-minute walk from the Hippodrome of Constantinople, in the Sultanahmet area. It is free to enter but closes doors at 7 pm. Keep in mind that there is a dress code to enter Istanbul mosques.
Islamic Arts Museum
When you are in Istanbul on a rainy day it doesn't mean that you have to stay in your hotel. It means that now is the best time to visit Istanbul museums. One such museum is the Islamic Arts Museum which is housed in a former palace.
The museum is home to the largest collections of Islamic art, starting from the 7th to the 20th century. Located in Sultanahmet Square, the Islamic Arts Museum costs $4 to enter, unless you have an Istanbul tourist pass. You can either book a tour or visit the museum on your own. Doors close at 6.30 pm.
What better way to hide from the rain in Istanbul than to go underground? There are hundreds of ancient underground cisterns in Istanbul, and the largest is the Basilica Cistern, or Cisterna Basilica, located near Hagia Sophia. This underground cistern was built in 532 AD, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I, the heydays of the Byzantine Empire.
Its purpose was to provide water for the Great Palace. Exploring this massive water container will take you a few hours as it's 469 feet long and 213 feet wide with over 330 marble columns to marvel at, designed in Ionic and Corinthian styles. The entry fee is about $2 and you can visit every day of the week from 9 am till 6.30 pm. It is recommended that you book in advance to secure your spot.
This is Istanbul's main avenue that runs from Taksim Square all the way to Galata Tower. The 1-mile long street is the perfect refuge from the storm. You could spend a day here walking around, soaking in Turkish culture, and watching the world go by. From historic pastry shops, coffee shops, and traditional restaurants, to tons of events and entertainment, this is the place to be when the sky gets gloomy. Take a seat in one of the many coffee shops and try the famous Turkish coffee, roasted chestnuts or Turkish tea.
Turkish food is one of the best in the world and you can savor dishes like Lahmacun (Turkish style pizza), kofte (meatballs), doner (Turkish sub), corba (Turkish soup) and more in any of the restaurants on Istiklal Street. With over 3 million visitors in a single day, places on Istiklal Street can get really crowded, but that is to be expected of Istanbul, especially on a rainy day.
While in Istanbul, visiting a Turkish hammam is a must, and what better day to pamper yourself than on a rainy day. Turkish baths have been a part of Turkish culture for 5 centuries. The oldest one is Galatasaray Turkish bath built in 1491, and it's located in Taksim, the heart of Istanbul.
There are over 60 Turkish baths in Istanbul, most can be found in the popular touristy areas. From exfoliating, steam baths and all sorts of massages, to face masks, body care and soaking in a scented bubble bath, you could easily spend a few hours in a Turkish bath, away from the rain. Most Turkish baths cost about $40 to get in, and prices go up depending on which packages you get. Turkish baths in Istanbul mainly open in the morning and close around 10 pm-midnight.
One of the most popular attractions in the Beyoglu area of Istanbul is Galata Tower. The tower was built in 528 AD by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and later rebuilt by the Genoese colony in 1348. At 219. ft tall, Galata Tower was the tallest building in Constantinople and was used as a watchtower to help defend the city and later served as a prison during the rule of Sultan Suleiman 'The Magnificent'.
Today, this historic structure is an exhibition place and museum, with a rooftop that offers stunning views of the city, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. With thousands of visitors per day, it can get really busy, especially if it's raining, so make sure you get there at 9 am sharp. The entrance fee is about $7 and the Tower closes late at night.
Set in the former Imperial Ottoman bank is SALT Galata, a modern art museum, your perfect shelter on a rainy day in Istanbul. Built in 1892, SALT Galata offers art exhibitions, a public library, and a conference hall. This amazing place with a variety of books will keep you entertained for hours. There is a coffee shop on the lower floor where you can sip Turkish tea, and a restaurant on the top floor to savor some delicious food.
Enjoy a good book in silence with stunning views of the Golden Horn, get mindblown by creative exhibitions, and more while hiding from the rain. It is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 12 am to 8 pm and on Sundays from 12 am to 6 pm. The best part about this museum is that it is free and will keep your mind and heart happy on a rainy day in Istanbul.
If you want to escape the rain in Istanbul, there is no better place than the Escape rooms. Whether you are traveling with your partner, solo, or with the family, trying to get out of a locked room looking for clues for hours is going to be great fun.
There are tons of escape rooms in Istanbul all with different themes and mysteries to solve. You can try the Agatha Christie room in the Escapist, or the Vampire Evi escape room in Taksim if you are into horror movies. Maze Up is another fun escape room located in Bakirkoy, Key Room is in Besiktas, and Tuzak escape room you can find on the Asian side of Istanbul. Prices range from $2-$10 for an hour, and they usually stay open until midnight.
There are tons of things to do on a rainy day in Istanbul and this includes visiting Istanbul's Palaces. One of the most popular attractions in Istanbul is the Dolmabahce Palace which was home to seven sultans. Built in the mid 19th century by Sultan Abdulmecid, the Palace was the first European-style palace in Istanbul.
What is even more fascinating is that the cost to build was five million Ottoman gold pounds, which is the equivalent of 35 tons of gold. Located in Besiktas, the Palace is home to the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world. Dolmabahce Palace is a large complex of gardens, museums, and pavilions, and it will take half a day to see it all. The entrance fee to visit both the Palace and the Harem is about $10 and you can visit the Palace every day from 9 am - 4 pm except on Mondays when it's closed.
A trip to Istanbul is not complete if you don't visit Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the most important architecture in Istanbul. It was built in 537 by Byzantine Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantinople's founder, Emperor Constantin. Throughout the centuries Hagia Sophia served as the main church of the Byzantine Empire, as a mosque after the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453, and in 1930, under Kemal Ataturk's rule, it was turned into a museum. In 2020, president Erdogan reconverted Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Located near Topkapi Palace, the biggest Palace in Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was accepted as the 8th wonder of the world and it is worth visiting come rain or shine. It is open 24 hours and it costs nothing to get in.
If you are a fan of museums, especially life-sized wax figures, Madame Tussauds on Istiklal Street is definitely the perfect shelter from the storm. Here you can take photos of celebrities like Bruce Willis, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and David Beckham, along with important figures from the Ottoman Empire to present Turkey like Kemal Ataturk.
The wax museum is open every day from 11 am till 8 pm with the last entrance at 7 pm. The ticket price is around $10 or free for Istanbul E-pass holders.
Great Food and Places to See in Istanbul
You shouldn't let rainy days in Istanbul spoil all the fun because rain or shine it's always a good time to visit Istanbul. Head to Bagdat Street and shop or visit the Ortakoy Mosque. There is much to see in this incredible city! Make your trip to Turkey and Istanbul worthwhile, with these 13 things to do and more, come rain or shine.